Ethiopian police, Muslims clash in Addis Ababa during Idd prayers - VIDEO

Tuesday May 03 2022
Chaos during Idd prayers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Chaos during Idd prayers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. PHOTO | AFP


Idd al-Fitr prayers in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa were disrupted after gunshots and teargas rocked a gathering of tens and thousands of Muslim worshippers.

The incident occurred outside the international stadium in the heart of the capital, where prayers were scheduled to celebrate the Idd al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of the Ramadhan fasting month.

Unable to gain access because the stadium was full, some worshippers began to pray outside, in Meskel Square.

'Not a Christian-Muslim clash'

A member of the Addis Ababa High Council of Islamic Affairs told AFP details about what happened next were sketchy.


Volunteers at the scene, he said, reported that a policeman accidentally fired a round of tear gas at the crowd, triggering a confrontation and "the situation became uncontrollable".

His organisation later issued a statement saying "the unrest was not a problem that happened between Christians and Muslims."

Nor, the Council said, was the unrest "connected to the government, as some entities are trying to do."

Mohammed Hussein told The EastAfrican that police unexpectedly started to fire gunshots and teargas forcing worshipers to flee the event.

"I was inside the stadium along with two of my friends. We heard multiple gunshots from outside of the stadium," Mohammed, resident of Addis Ababa, said. 

Another eyewitness, Ali Nessredin, said "As prayers commenced, security forces started to fire teargas not far from where I was standing."

"No one had a clue on what was going on and people started to flee the area in different directions."

Angered by the police actions, some people started to chant slogans leading to riots.

"Angry protesters afterwards started to throw stones on government buildings including at a national museum on Meskel Square, smashing windows and inflicting other property damages," Ali said.

As thousands of worshipers scrambled to flee the scene in confusion, children were separated from their parents.

"Distraught mothers were seen desperately looking for their lost children, some were in tears," Ali added.

Addis police issued a statement saying "a riot" had been caused by a "few individuals" and led to property damage, but order had now been restored.

"Police are calling on the community to remain calm," it said, adding that it would inform the public later about the cause of the disturbance.

The police promised to inform the public on what transpired.

Religious tension

Last week, at least 21 people were killed and 150 injured in Gondar, a town in the northwestern region of Amhara, when Muslims were attacked at a funeral by heavily-armed "extremist Christians", an Islamic group there says.

The Amhara Regional government on Saturday imposed curfew in the historic tourist destination city of Gondar as security agents struggled to quell the violence which was spreading to neighbouring states.

The number of suspects arrested in connection with last Tuesday's religious violence has risen to 373.

Clashes were also reported between some members of an undisclosed armed group and the Ethiopian National Defence Forces deployed to the city to quell the violence.